Comparing Arthur Laurents' West Side Story and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Comparing Arthur Laurents' West Side Story and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Length: 2317 words (6.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Although the discrepancies between Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story are too frequent to categorize in such limited space, it is impossible for anyone familiar with both texts to not notice the obvious similarities between the two works ("Theme").  From the opening scenes in both, up through the rumble in West Side Story/death of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, the plays mirror each other (Poelstra).  It isn't until the last part of West Side Story, where Tony (our modern-day Romeo) dies and Maria (Tony's Juliet) doesn't (unlike the two star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare's work, both of whom perish), that the major difference between the two works becomes apparent.

               Granted, instead of tension between feuding families (Montaguesand Capulets), West Side Story offers prejudice between races, as illustrated between street gangs (Jets and Sharks).  Some of the characters in West Side Story are carbon copies of those in Romeo and Juliet: Maria (Juliet), Tony (Romeo), Bernardo (Tybalt), Lt. Schrank (Prince),  and Anita (Nurse).  Others appear to be a composite of characters, namely Riff, a combination of Benvolio and Mercutio, and Doc, who appears to fulfill the role of Friar Laurence (possessed somewhat of a peacekeeping nature: "You couldn't play basketball?", he asks, when informed of their upcoming "war council" [Laurents 57]) yet, at the same time, it is implied (in the film version, not the play) that he is a pharmacist, and there was, after all, an apothecary in Romeo and Juliet . The tomboyish Anybodys, a Jet wannabe, would best fit into the role of Balthasar (although Doc's character fits into this role marginally, as well), since it was she who aided Tony in escaping after the rumble (which resulted in the d...


... middle of paper ...


... a story four centuries old to be retold in a fairly modern-day setting (after all, street gangs are more prominent now that ever before), a retelling that has garnered its own wide audience appeal over the past four decades ("Theme"), showing that certain tales can stand the test of time more than once, provided the content/context effectively reflects the world within which it occurs. 

Works Cited 

Laurents, Arthur. West Side Story. (A musical, based on a conception of Jerome Robbins; music by Leonard Bernstein; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.) NY: Random House, 1966.

Poelstra, James. "Romeo and Juliet vs. West Side Story." (17 July 97).

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Volume I. Ed. W. G. Clark and W. Aldis Wright. NY:  Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 247-277.  

"Modernizing Age-Old Theme." (17 July 97).

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Comparing Arthur Laurents' West Side Story and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

- Although the discrepancies between Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story are too frequent to categorize in such limited space, it is impossible for anyone familiar with both texts to not notice the obvious similarities between the two works ("Theme").  From the opening scenes in both, up through the rumble in West Side Story/death of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, the plays mirror each other (Poelstra).  It isn't until the last part of West Side Story, where Tony (our modern-day Romeo) dies and Maria (Tony's Juliet) doesn't (unlike the two star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare's work, both of whom perish), that the major difference between the two works becomes apparent....   [tags: comparison compare contrast essays]

Powerful Essays
2317 words (6.6 pages)

Essay on Prejudices in "The West Side Story" by Arthur Laurents

- The book West Side Story written by Arthur Laurents is set in the mid 1950’s, created as modern version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story is a romantic tragedy about two characters that are supposedly completely different and aren’t accepted when they fall in love. The “difference’s” between these characters is centered on the prejudice’s they had against each other. Prejudice is a harsh opinion or feeling formed previously without any knowledge or reason. The Jets and the Sharks used many prejudices against other races, sex, and age....   [tags: West Side Story, Arthur Laurents, Shakespeare, Rom]

Powerful Essays
806 words (2.3 pages)

Comparing the Characters in Laurents' West Side Story and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

- Meshing Together of Characters in Arthur Laurents' West Side Story and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet The meshing of characters between Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Bernstein’s West Side Story formulate significant similarities between the two. In Romeo and Juliet the story of “Two households both alike in dignity,” (Montagues and Capulets) who have been feuding is parallel to the two gangs in West Side Story (Jets and Sharks). This grouping of loyalties keeps the segregation of the two groups at a dead lock, thus producing the tension that keeps the two lovers in each play (Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria) in the unattainable, intangible realm of their idealistic love....   [tags: Comparison Compare Contrast Essays]

Powerful Essays
1794 words (5.1 pages)

Romeo And Juliet - Comparisson To West Side Story Essay

- The play West Side Story, by Arthur Laurents, is based upon the play Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. Despite a few differences, both works, in essence, have the same plot. The source of violence in Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story is the ever-present hatred between families and between gangs, although, because of the "star-cross’d lovers" motif in Romeo and Juliet, the hatred plays a larger role in producing the ending of West Side Story than it does the ending of Romeo and Juliet....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
1421 words (4.1 pages)

William Shakespeare 's Romeo And Juliet Essay

- In the story of Romeo and Juliet, romantic love is portrayed by different artists. Love has the capability to complete someone or destroy someone; both things happen in the story of Romeo and Juliet. In the final scene, love tears both partners apart and ends in a beautiful tragedy. The play Romeo and Juliet, the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and West Side Story portray romantic love with different methods in the final scene, using dialogue, action, music, and choreography. I. The play Romeo and Juliet Playwright: William Shakespeare uses dialog, action, A....   [tags: Romeo and Juliet, Romance, KILL, Love]

Powerful Essays
1079 words (3.1 pages)

Essay about Contrast Of Romeo And Juliet and West Side Story

- Works Cited Missing Three Hundred Fifty Years of Blind Love: A Contraposition of Shakespeare and Robbins’ Romeo and Juliet Andy Warhol once said, "They say that time changes things, but actually you have to change them yourself." Two hundred fifty years passed between the original Romeo and Juliet and the premiere of West Side Story on Broadway in 1957. However, time did not change the message of the story, simply the creators’ unique visions evolved. Shakespeare’s delivery of the timeless tale of desperate love in his classic Romeo and Juliet proves to only intensify through retelling and modern interpretation....   [tags: compare, contrast, comparison]

Powerful Essays
1657 words (4.7 pages)

Realities of West Side Story Essay examples

- Realities of West Side Story Filmed in 1961, West Side Story is a modern-day telling of Romeo and Juliet. Two youths struggle with their forbidden love as two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, duel. At the end of the film, Maria says, “You all killed him […] with hate!” This is a universally acknowledged theme that hate can kill. West Side Story is said to be a “morality play about “our” everyday problems: racism, poverty, and the destructiveness of violence” . Shortly after 1949 had been rung in, Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins were already hard at work....   [tags: american music, modern-day telling]

Powerful Essays
908 words (2.6 pages)

Essay on A Comparison of Scenes From West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet

- A Comparison of Scenes From West Side Story and Romeo and Juliet Cinematography The scene before the meeting scene in West Side Story Maria spins around in her dress the camera then carries on spinning which creates a colourful blurred effect on the screen. The effect makes her look like she is almost spinning into the next scene. When Tony and Maria meet, all the other characters that were dancing, slow down and fade behind Tony and Maria. The room becomes dark and there is a spotlight on Maria and Tony....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
793 words (2.3 pages)

West Side Story The Musical Essay

- West Side Story The Musical *No Works Cited West Side Story is one of the most influential musicals of all time. It's integration of dance and song into the plot was very innovative, because even though it had been done before, it had never been done this well. Jerome Robbins had thought of an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet to a Broadway musical in 1949. He began discussions with librettist Arthur Laurents and composer Leonard Bernstein of a musical called East Side Story, with a plot concentrating on a Catholic girl and a Jewish boy....   [tags: Papers]

Powerful Essays
508 words (1.5 pages)

William Shakespeare 's Romeo And Juliet And Laurent 's West Side Story Essay

- The archetypal tragedy of two star-crossed lovers, separated by familial hate, is a recurring theme, which never fails to capture the minds of the audience. It is only at great cost, through the death of the central characters that these feuding families finally find peace. This is an intriguing idea, one antithetical. I have chosen to analyze both Shakespeare 's Romeo and Juliet and Laurent 's West Side Story. The purpose of this essay is showing how the spoken language is utilized in these different plays to meet differing objectives....   [tags: Romeo and Juliet, Romeo Montague, Juliet Capulet]

Powerful Essays
1027 words (2.9 pages)